Sometimes, We Need a Little Tough Love

January 13, 2012 Jack Smith

My wife recently left a note by the bed that hit me right between the eyes. And it hurt.
“I’m not sure what is going to make you better, maybe nothing,” she wrote. “I’m not sure what else there is out there to try. Right now, I feel like we are back in a bad place, and I am finding myself exhausted and apathetic.”
It got worse.

'We both deserve more'

“I’m not asking you to fake it,” she wrote. “I’m asking you to be aware that anxiety and depression have control over both our lives right now, and that is not how I want to live. We both deserve more. I don’t want this to make you feel worse but I have to be honest with you, and this is how I feel.”

Then came the part that really stung.

“You are struggling right now, well so am I. I am juggling three kids’ schedules with school and soccer and trying to find time to help my mom, who is battling cancer. I am getting up at 6 a.m. every morning to try and get my head on straight and get everyone what they need.”

That note came not long ago after one of those miserable days. I was so consumed with how badly I felt that I forgot to even ask how my mother-in-law’s latest chemo treatment went. We ended up talking about my depression most of the night.

When morning came, that note I found on my dresser jarred me back to reality. It made me realize how selfish I had become because of my all-consuming battle with depression.

Depression: A Selfish Disease
My friends and family probably wouldn’t describe me as a “selfish” person. But one of the consequences of mental illness, or at least in my case, is that it’s hard to get beyond yourself, even though investing in others is one of the things that can make us feel better. Even if just for a little while.

It also made me realize that those who have loved ones battling mental illness need encouragement and support as much as we do. Only I don’t always know how to give it. When my depression is at its worst, I’m utterly incapable of investing in others, in really being there for them. And that’s sad.

So what to do about it?

I don’t have the answers except to wage war on my illness every day and try to defeat it. By exercising. By taking my meds. By working hard on the things my therapist has told me to do.

I’ve advanced in my recovery since the morning that note was left waiting for me to read. My wife gets the credit. I’m lucky to have a supportive companion who offers support and love—sometimes the sort of tough love we all need.

Jack Smith also hosts a personal blog at

APA Reference
Smith, J. (2012, January 13). Sometimes, We Need a Little Tough Love, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 19 from

Author: Jack Smith

June, 17 2020 at 9:20 am

My very best friend has been battling depression for a while, and I'm scared that she's gotten comfortable in it. It's as though she is ok with just simply being sad and tired all the time and I don't think she wants to heal anymore. I am trying to find a way to say "I need you to get angry. I need you to want to fight this terrible disease" without making it sound like I'm making it about me, because it's not. I want her to want to get better for her, not for me. I'm hoping to talk to her about setting daily goals, thought patterns, exercise, and not giving up on herself. I was depressed and made my way out of it so I'm trying not to draw from my experience because I know each person has a unique form of depression. I've been listening and talking to her for the past year and a half, but I think it's time for a different approach.

June, 17 2020 at 1:19 pm

Hi Paige,
I have a friend who was in the same place as your best friend. Nothing helped--not even tough love--until she decided to take back control. Slowly but surely, she has now managed to get on the path to healing. Ultimately, all you can do is be supportive...the rest is basically up to her. If she has a therapist, maybe you could nudge your friend to talk to her about your perception of how she is handling her depression? That's what I would do. Good luck and take care. Also, you are a wonderful friend.

May, 10 2019 at 6:46 am

At least you could be shaken out of your rut.
I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer and the very first thing out of my depressed husband's mouth was, "What about me?"
He fretted about our finances while I was in treatment. Mind you, I pay for the health insurance and we have separate checking. I paid for all of my treatment too. So...I worked full-time throughout my treatment. I took off a total of 8 entire days for AC chemo and its aftermath and 12 half-days for Taxol. I had radiation treatment after work. I was supposed to have 8 weeks off after my double mastectomy, but I went back after 4 weeks. I took care of all the usual chores and the kids.
He moped and cried about how hard this was on him. He drove me to four appointments and to and from the hospital for the surgery. I took care of my drains, I did all the changing of bandages, etc.
I asked him for help on occasion but he would foot-drag to the point that I would throw in the towel and either do it myself (contravening my surgeon's order) or when they were available, get one of the kids to help me. My spouse? Sitting in the den playing video games or going to work and telling people how hard it was for him to cope because I was so needy.
This was while he was on medication and in therapy.
The irony is that when he was treated for cancer I took care of the kids, got him to and from all of his treatments, took half-day leave so I could get him there and home, paid all the bills on my salary alone because his was cut significantly due to running out of sick leave (not his fault!) and trying to keep him at least comfortable - which was impossible because the chemo was SO awful on him. He lost pounds, was cold all the time, developed pneumonia and had to be hospitalized, etc. It was awful to witness and I was terrified that he was going to die. He complained that I wasn't doing more - but I did this for months and on 6 hours of sleep nightly if I was lucky.
I'm filing for a divorce on my birthday. It's going to be the best gift I give myself. After 24 years, I deserve someone who can not only recognize when someone is burnt out, or at least respond appropriately when called upon to do so instead of getting angry.
I'm not a rented mule and I would rather be single until the day I day than endure another year of the world revolving around his depression and his complete disinterest in DOING something about it.

May, 16 2019 at 12:47 pm

Hi, Toffee. I'm Jennifer, the current author of the Coping With Depression Blog. You have brought up a painful part of depression in how it affects not only the person who has it but those closest to them as well. As a person who has depression myself, I know how hard it is to function and cope with it at times. While that's true, I also see how difficult it is on the spouse as my husband goes through struggles with me. Sometimes medications need to be adjusted or different therapies need to be tried. Perhaps that could help your husband. Depression is challenging to all. I am so sorry that you had to battle cancer. I know that must have been a lonely, painful, and scary time for you. I wish you healing in all ways and the best in life. Thank you again for your comments.

Dora-Faye Hendricks
June, 30 2019 at 3:41 pm

Hi, Jennifer. I'm the mother of my only beloved 44-year-old daughter with depression and anxiety issues and I'm trying to better support and understand her. Three years ago she moved to a small village in Denmark (where very few speak English) with her 21-year-old daughter (my only granddaughter), to marry a seemingly great Danish guy who is working at a great job there. Both women were active and had good friends here in the U,S. but neither of them have learned the Danish language so both are pretty isolated and lonesome now; neither has been able to find therapists who speak English. Both also have ADD but did well in school years ago; now our granddaughter has lost a good friend to suicide and dropped out of school before getting her high school diploma. Both of them are very depressed; my daughter keeps in touch online but the granddaughter, still living at home seems to have lost most or all of her friends. Our granddaughter seems to be mirroring her mother in a lot of ways. I'm very concerned; any ideas for me?

June, 30 2019 at 4:17 pm

Hello, Dora-Faye. I'm Jennifer, the current Coping With Depression author. Thank you for your comment. I'm sorry to hear that your daughter and granddaughter are battling depression and anxiety. I know it must be difficult for you to be so far away from them. Try encouraging them to attend classes in order to learn the language. If your daughter's husband speaks the language, then perhaps he could help them learn it as well. It's imperative that they learn the language so they won't be isolated. Is there a larger city near the village where your daughter and granddaughter could potentially find a therapist that speaks English? Therapy truly helped to save my life when I hit rock bottom with my depression. What you can do for your daughter and granddaughter is make suggestions that will hopefully encourage them to take steps to get the help they need. The rest of the responsibility lies with them. Please make sure to take care of yourself, too. Again, thank you for reaching out.

John Stephanopoulos
July, 18 2018 at 9:54 am

Depression isn't a 'disease'. You don't catch it. There is nothing 'wrong' physically with your brain. You have to change what you are thinking about all the time. Try finding out what happens to animals on factory farms and in slaughterhouses, go vegan, and then you will realize that your mental suffering is nothing compared to their real, physical suffering. You are so going to regret having wasted the most precious years of your life when you are 80 years old and the doctor informs you that you have one month left to live, believe me. It's impossible to stay depressed if you spend your time trying to stop others from suffering - your mind can only contain one thought at a time - make those thoughts about others, instead of about yourself, and you'll see I'm right.

October, 19 2019 at 10:26 am

Oh dear god, you are not right. Scientifically and empathetically, you are severely wrong. Depression is something physically wrong with your brain, its a chemical imbalance that can be caused by many things, whether it be trauma, prolonged bad life situations, or hell even your bloody diet, fitness, etc. This isn't some new revelation and has been knowledge for god knows how long. Therapists themselves say to NOT compare yourself to other people, because many depressed people, depending on personality, also develop terrible self confidence issues and compare themselves to others, how pathetically small their situation is compared to say people in bloody Syria. To a depressed person, this doesn't magically make them think "oh, these people have it much worse than me, I'm so pathetic and feel motivated to improve myself!", It makes them think "oh, these people have it much worse than me, I feel so pathetic and even more so for pitying myself for it. I'm aware of this, but I still can't pull myself out of this depression. Hell, knowing that makes me feel even more worthless and pathetic and makes me have even less motivation".
Also, the fact that you use depression to push your vegan agenda... Its disgusting. Animals suffering is disgusting, but you're not helping anyone with your approach, only making them worse.

June, 7 2018 at 6:16 am

The answer to curing depression is Jesus Christ and His Blood. I can attest to this. If it hadn't been for Jesus Christ, and a counselor back in nursing school who told me to get over myself! Glory to God! the joy of the Lord is my strength! I'm so liberated and filled with joy and hope everyday

July, 22 2015 at 8:29 am

I am just so sad. The love of my life is so depressed, and I find myself thinking like Jack's wife. I would move heaven and earth to help, but I feel so alone and on my own, and I feel exactly like her: depression and anxiety have control of both of our lives right now, and this is not how I want to live. I love him, but I'm reaching the point where I'm going to have to let him go or lose myself.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 29 2018 at 7:16 am

You are not alone. My wife suffered from post partum that lead to severe depression/anxiety for over 3 years now. Sometimes there are nights I ask myself why? Sometimes there are times I feel helpless myself. There has been loneliness for a very long time and what keeps me going is my 3 year old, and having faith in a higher power. We have gone through therapy together and she has gone on her own but she blamed the therapist of being biased. She is starting new therapy next week, I’m hoping things change because no one knows how this has affected our family.

December, 28 2012 at 7:16 pm

Thanks for sharing. It's amazing how depression seems to turn an almost selfless person into a selfish person. Who is completely consumed by this illness. And this phenomenon then perpetuates the guilt and shame cycle of depression and not being (or even not being able to be) there for those you care about you the most. Yes, I must remember, too, one day at a time and that this too shall pass. We are not our illness. We are people who struggle with a disorder. Good luck to you and your family on your journey to health and happiness.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

John Stephanopoulos
July, 18 2018 at 9:56 am

That's a really interesting comment: "It's amazing how depression seems to turn an almost selfless person into a selfish person". Maybe the opposite is also true - perhaps being selfish makes one depressed. Depression isn't an 'illness'. It's a choice. Depressed people are so caught up in their own feelings that nobody else matters to them.

Margie Stowe
May, 3 2012 at 6:36 pm

It is an all consuming horrible disease. Only if you have experienced it can you truly understand.

Cathy Brooks-USANA
January, 14 2012 at 8:44 am

Thanks for sharing. Depression is not easy and one of the worst parts of it is how all consuming it is! We all just want it to stop and it controls us in every way. It sounds like you and your family will get through it with honesty and communication-both equally important.

Sara Catron
January, 14 2012 at 7:47 am

It's so true, about depression. You get so distrated, when it's happenening to you. That your not even aware., you have it!! It's so hard. You have to drag yourself, out of it. Or it will take a hold of you, it's hard to shake. Do it, one step at a time. (Baby steps)! Or it's all so overwhelming!!

Charlie Freeman
January, 13 2012 at 3:04 am

Thanks for sharing this Jack. I applaud you for being so honest with yourself and your wife. Not everyone realizes how focused on the self you can become with depression and it can be disheartening. One day at a time...

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Jack Smith
January, 13 2012 at 5:50 am

Thanks for the comments. I forget to battle this thing "one day at a time." So true. Thanks again and please come back.

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